It took me a long time to start to think I could write myself, and even longer after I started to write poems to dare to break into prose. Helen Dunmore showed me you could do both. ‘The Love of Fat Men’ is one of her ‘Ulli’ stories: about a cool, but emotionally honest Finnish girl. I’ve spent a lot of time in Finland too and recognise the cold grey landscape and Ulli’s trenchant, open character. Helen Dunmore gave me my first good review and was unfailingly generous to me and many others throughout her career. She died recently and I miss her
From Love of Fat Men (Penguin, 1997)
A brilliant little story by a 37-year-old Helen Dunmore, who at the time had published three books of poetry. All her novels, story collections, young adult novels, children’s books, later poetry collections and awards were ahead of her. It would make even the hardest-hearted reader sad to read this story now, three months after her death at the age of only 64. A young woman wakes up to find a strange man in her bed. There’s beauty and precision in the way Dunmore describes the woman’s actions. You believe in her right away and because you believe in her you care about her, you’re interested in what happens to her, you’re invested in her. You want to know who the man is and what happened between them and what will happen between them. That they’re in Finland is a detail that is dropped in and it might be neither here or there, but the snow-covered street outside the window comes alive in a couple of brushstrokes. Dunmore would use the title of the story again as the title of her fourth collection of poems published the following year.
(London Magazine, February/March 1990)